Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Saki was known for his satiric wit and his adroit dialogue, which perfectly reveals characters typical of the Edwardian social setting of his stories. His characters are very often eccentric bores and colossal liars, types that can be found in his other stories, such as “A Defensive Diamond” and “The Strategist.”
The meaning of “The Open Window” depends on the narrator’s final statement about Vera: “Romance at short notice was her specialty.” The story is little more than a practical joke played by Vera on the susceptible Framton Nuttel, a champion bore and a character-type familiar to readers of Saki. After a very short conversation with him, Mrs. Sappleton quickly reads the character of Mr. Nuttel as a “most extraordinary man” who “could only talk about his illnesses.”
The reader, too, is quickly bored with Framton Nuttel, a weakling who thinks only of his health and has no topic of conversation other than his nervous disorder and the opinions of his doctors. Vera, the fifteen-year-old niece who greets him on his arrival at the Sappleton house, is a surprisingly perceptive girl. She is able to read the man’s character accurately as that of a gullible hypochondriac and proceeds to fabricate the absurd story of her aunt’s “great tragedy” for her own amusement. The deception is almost forgivable because Mr. Nuttel is such a boring person, but the deception is also cruel, and the man’s terrified response to...
(The entire section is 329 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Open Window Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Though it is a remarkably short piece of fiction, ''The Open Window'' explores a number of important themes. Mr. Nuttel comes to the country in an attempt to cure his nervous condition. He pays a visit to the home of Mrs. Sappleton in order to introduce himself, and before he gets to meet the matron of the house, he is intercepted by her niece, who regales him with an artful piece of fiction that, in the end, only makes his nervous condition worse.
Appearances and Reality
It is no surprise that Mrs. Sappleton' s niece tells a story that is easy to believe. She begins with an object in plain view, an open window, and proceeds from there. The window is obviously open, but for the reasons for its being open the reader is completely at the mercy of Mrs. Sappleton's niece, at least while she tells her story. The open window becomes a symbol within this story-within-a-story, and its appearance becomes its reality. When Mr. Nuttel (and the reader) are presented with a contrary reality at the end of the story, the result is a tension between appearance and reality that needs to be resolved: Which is real? Can they both be real?
Were it not for deception, this story could not happen. The action and irony of the story revolve around the apparent deception that Mrs. Sappleton's niece practices. It remains to be seen, however, whether this deception is a harmless prank or the result of a sinister disposition. If the...
(The entire section is 341 words.)